It’s been 20 years since Formula 1 had a drive death during a race weekend. A lot of the safety innovation and improvements came from this tragic day on May 1, 1994 at Imola when Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger died.
While Ratzenberger’s life may have been saved by the HANS device the drivers now wear, hindsight is always 20/20. If the suspension would have been an inch to the left or right, Senna may still be alive. It’s hard to reverse engineer these moments but it’s perfectly understandable why F1 does…in order to learn and improve.
To those ends, F1 have become much safer than it was in 1994 but 4-time champion Sebasitan Vettel says it still isn’t 100% safe. The New Zealand Herald has the call:
“Formula One is safer today but it is still not completely safe because there is still so much that can happen,” Vettel said.
“you must never feel too safe.”
While there have been no driver deaths, F1 has had its share of race marshal deaths and while driver safety has increased, other areas of F1 could be improved. Most recently at the 2013 Canadian Grand Prix a marshal was killed while retrieving a stalled car by the tractor used to move the car off the circuit.
Senna’s death can certainly be a catalyst for safety change in F1 and like many things in life, it is the stark reality that prompts us to move and make changes to prevent such incidents as Vettel points out:
“Unfortunately it always took accidents and negative events for us to learn the most,” said Vettel.
Unfortunately F1 will never be 100% safe. There is simply too much energy to be dissipated when a car traveling at 150-180mph hits a solid, immovable object or a part flies through the air. The driver’s body takes lethal amounts of g-force trauma and becomes an object of energy dissipation during a crash. Still, the increase in safety has been enormous and while the FIA seems intent on making sustainability their main initiative, I do hope they stay firmly focused on safety too.